Hot Topics

More »

Book Review

"Paradise Now (Al-Jenna al-An)"

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Starring Ali Suliman, Kais Nashef, Lubna Azabai
Warner Independent Pictures, 2005
Reviewed by Angela Williams

Two Palestinians share a nargileh, staring vacantly over the city below, their ”coffee-house” a hillside littered with the scrap metal of cannibalized vehicles, an apt metaphor for the wreckage of their lives. In Nablus, the economy is moribund. Access is controlled by Israeli checkpoints whose daily negotiation they find humiliating. The young men have little they value other than their childhood friendship and this they have pledged to sacrifice in a joint suicide bombing in affluent, vibrant Tel Aviv.

Is the occupation, a poverty-stricken childhood in a refugee camp and a dead-end job enough to drive a young man to kill himself and others? Seeing no future in this life, will they turn to the lure of “Paradise Now”, recruited by a political ideology which has mobilized religion in its service?

The strength of Hany Abu-Assad’s film lies in its sensitive exploration of the forces at work in the minds of Khaled (Ali Sliman) and Said (Kais Nashef) as they prepare for their mission, cope with plans gone awry, and confront their own fears and emotions as they come face to face with their intended victims. Once, twice they fail to complete the mission; and it is then that this unflinching, compassionate director probes the deeper levels of anguish and frustration which ultimately separate Khaled from Said.


About the Reviewer: For 33 years, 1971-2004, Angela Williams served the United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA - in various key positions - including Director of Relief & Social Services (1988-1998) and Director of UNRWA Affairs in the Syrian Arab Republic (1998-2004) - for which she was made Companion of the Order of St Michael & St George (CMG) in the British 2005 New Year Honours. Following her retirement in September 2004, she was engaged by the recently established NGO Music in ME ( as Director of Programme Implementation, to develop projects which support cultural and social development through music education, therapy. performance and preservation, and promote cross-border communication through music in the region from Egypt to Iraq, with particular focus on the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and Jews.

News about Paradise Now

This film’s release has stirred praise as well as dissent. Earlier in 2005, protestors outside screenings at the Berlin International Film Festival held signs reading "Stop Glorifying Suicide Killers." Despite this, Paradise Now won the Blue Angel Award for best European film by the Berlin Festival jury.

Other accolades include:

  • 2006 Nominee for Oscar, Best Foreign Language Film
  • 2006 Nominee for Golden Globe Award, Best Foreign Film
  • 2006 Nominee for Independent Spirit Award, Best Foreign Film
  • 2005 Winner of National Board of Review, Best Foreign Film
  • 2005 Broadcast Critics Award, Best Foreign Language Film
  • 2005 Winner of European Screenwriter Award, European Film Academy
  • 2005 Official Selection, New York Film Festival
  • 2005 Official Selection, Telluride Film Festival
  • 2005 Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival
  • 2005 Winner of Blue Angel Award, Best European Film
  • 2005 Winner of the Amnesty International Prize

Paradise Now Wins Golden Globe